Home NEWS Gran killed in bushfire was in ‘absolute panic’ as house caught fire

Gran killed in bushfire was in ‘absolute panic’ as house caught fire


A grandmother-of-six who died in a bushfire in Australia was in an ‘absolute panic’ as flames engulfed her home.

Vivian Chaplain, 69, was alone in her house in Wytaliba, New South Wales, when the surrounding areas became a ‘tunnel of fire’ on November 8.

As the blaze spread, she rang her daughter-in-law, Chrystal Harwood, and told her: ‘We’re on fire. There’s fire everywhere. I need the boys here now.’

The Rural Fire Service (RFS) rushed to her aid, but struggled to get through to the house, leaving her desperate family to beg for help on social media.

Ms Chaplain was later found unconscious and with serious burns, and died in hospital that same day, RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

Ms Harwood said of their phone call: ‘Before I even got to tell her to just get out, she’d hung up on me. I couldn’t get back through to her. I tried so many times.

‘She was amazing. She was such a strong, loving woman.’

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Ms Chaplain is one of three people to have been killed by bushfires raging through Australia’s drought-stricken east coast, with dozens left injured and more than 150 homes destroyed.

Firefighters found another body on Saturday morning in a burned car near Glen Innes, a victim of the same fire, officials said.

While a third body was found later the same afternoon in a burned house at the village of Johns River, north of Taree.

A post-mortem will determine whether the victim is the 63-year-old woman who owns the house.

Five people have been reported missing in the same area, and more than 30 people, including firefighters, have been treated for burns and smoke inhalation, Fitzsimmons said.

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He noted that around 1,500 firefighters have been battling around 70 fires across New South Wales.

Damage assessment teams are still yet to reach some of the devastated areas.

Hundreds of people evacuated their homes along a 310-mile stretch between the Queensland state border to the coastal town of Forster.

Many spent the night in evacuation centres, while some slept in cars, officials report.

In Queensland, around 50 wildfires were raging on Saturday, with one firefighter suffering a broken leg in the response.

At least one house was lost in the fires, while 6,000 residents were evacuated from three communities in the state’s southeast, police said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned Australia to expect more bad news from the fire zones, describing them as ‘absolutely chilling’.


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